Welcome to the webbed and wired edition of R&R, aristotle. We’ll be doing the same sort of song and dance here as we do in print: reviewing the latest comics and cartoon-related books and ranting about trends and abuses and unfathomable foolishnesses. Each installment will stay here for about four weeks, with something new coming in just about every other week or so. If you don’t have the time to ponder every punctuation mark in this deathless prose and merely want to see what might be there that would interest you, we suggest you scroll down the page looking for the bold-face type that heralds the notables who reside herein this week. So here we go with Opus 329 (and a reprise of Opus 328):
Opus 330 (September 20, 2014). Out of the rabbit hole this time, we review some of the best editorial cartoons on the mess in Mesopotamia (including a long disquisition on Bronco Bama’s response last week) and on Ferguson, plus obitoons on Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall and Joan Rivers and an obit for veteran editoonist Tony Auth.
When I was a boy in the early 1940s, I was fascinated by the villains in Popeye: they were all dressed black frock coats and wide-brim hats, and they had beards, full beards—bristly, wiry beards. Now, 70-some years later, thanks to the Barbarian Caliphate, real-life villains have beards and dress in black. They would doubtless not be amused to learn that I liken them to comic strip villains. And so, perforce, I do exactly that.
The Mock in Democracy
Newspaper editorial page editors identify their precious opinion columns by running an editorial cartoon at the top of the page. Thus, the most serious section of today’s newspaper is identified by a flag of comedy: every newspaper in the U.S. except the fustian New York Times publishes a cartoon on its editorial page. And the desperate Denver Post increased the ranks of noncompliance last year by dropping the editoon from the weekday paper, retaining it only for Sundays, when it also runs a weekly round-up—and promotes its website editoon collection. So even a defector sees the value in editorial cartoons.
On the other hand, Tom Cavanaugh at the conservatively bent National Review has no use for editorial cartoons. He hates them because most editoonists are liberal, and on August 15, he laid into the Washington Post’s Tom Toles, beginning with a categorical assault on editorial cartooning generally, toting up its vices in a litany of vituperative contumely seldom seen in captivity: “cheap and half-baked premises; labeling of grossly obvious figures and concepts for the benefit of the irredeemably ignorant; unfunny gags; barnacle-encrusted cliches; a totally predictable point of view; glancing-at-best familiarity with issues in the news.”
What Cavanaugh says about Toles is similarly intemperate so I won’t mention it here. I quote Cavanaugh’s invective because it anoints editoonery with acclamation of achievement: such monumental rage and bad-tempered frustration can be inspired only by something that is profoundly, powerfully, effective.
And just how, we might ask, does the humble editorial cartoon accomplish its mission? Finding answers to that question is the mission of this department, wherein we examine the ways in which editoonists wield their rapier-like pens.
Our first visual aid to this purpose takes up the matter of the unrest in the Mideast—Iraq chiefly, but also Syria and the rest of that tumultuous region. But first, a prefatory admonition.
We ought to stop dignifying the dubious status of the bloodthirsty thugs who have ostensibly “conquered” a third of Syria and a third of Iraq. We should stop referring to them as the Islamic State, thereby lending brute viciousness a name that gives it a standing it scarcely deserves by implying it belong to the international family of nations. Barbarism is not a nation. Instead, we should call ’em as we see ’em: the Barbarian Caliphate of Murdering Muslim Thugs—“Muslim thugs” distinguishing them from other Muslims who are not thugs. In Egypt, the country’s top Islamic authority, revered by many Muslims world-wide, is calling the brutes the “al-Qaeda Separatists in Iraq and Syria.” Still a little too dignified for me. I’ll stick with Barbarian Caliphate.
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